'Life is a hard one' inside Losperfontein prison

2016-12-21 08:51
Prison officials have confiscated weapons, drugs, cellphones, TVs and alcohol from prisoners at Losperfontein. (Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

Prison officials have confiscated weapons, drugs, cellphones, TVs and alcohol from prisoners at Losperfontein. (Lizeka Tandwa, News24)

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Johannesburg – The dusty roads of the remote Losperfontein leave much to be desired, so it’s no wonder that the nearby prison is in rot, forgotten and in a state of disrepair.

As I entered the tight security building, I was alarmed when one of the prison officials reprimanded me for wearing an over the knee dress as we were about to enter the centre which houses more than 1 037 offenders.

The body search was a humiliating deterrent for an ordinary citizen.

As we enter the movie-like correctional facility with the tightly secured metal door seemingly designed to frighten, you realise the seriousness of where you are.

The overcrowded prison houses 32% more than the 810 offenders for which it was designed.

As journalists enter the prison, inmates are busy stretching over the remains of what used to be their semi-preserved mattresses while officials continue searching each cell inch by inch.

The cells are depressingly boiling in summer with only one window providing a moderate breeze.

Correctional services acting deputy regional commissioner Kenneth Mthombeni explained to journalists that during the search, officials found several articles including dagga dressed in soap, a winning lotto ticket worth R7 000 and numerous cellphones and television sets.

10 long years

"The life of a prisoner is a hard one. It’s a daily routine unbeknown to you," one prisoner explained to News24.

Johannes Manyaku has served 10 years in prison after being convicted on two counts of rape and robbery.

"I experienced a lot in prison. I even joined the 26 numbers gang but I didn’t like it. I lost my mother and my sister has breast cancer."

Manyaku said he managed to escape the gang and started participating in prison activities to enrich his life.

He told journalists that he has never received a visit in prison and his only source of income was odd jobs on the inside.

Manyaku’s telling story of a prisoner's life is just one of many at Losperfontein correctional centre, Mthombeni told News24.

Contraband amounting to at least R40 000 was found at the prison during correctional services’ 'Operation Vala'.

Other confiscated items included a kettle, 27 cellphones and cash amounting to R617.

Mthombeni took journalists on a tour of the prison during the unannounced search.

Mthombeni told News24 that the search was part of an annual operation by the department conducted at 253 of its correctional centres. He said the operation was aimed at reducing escape attempts by prisoners.

Read more on:    correctional services  |  johannesburg  |  prisons

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